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Old 09-20-2008, 12:58 PM   #1
Gluaisrothaí OP
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Joined: Sep 2007
Location: Alameda, CA
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Baja Solo September 2008

Hi there,
I took a ride from San Francisco through Baja California to Cabo San Lucas and back in September 2008. Here is my ride report.

First of all, the gear: I wore a pair of heavy textile Dainese armored pants, an Olympia AST jacket (inner liner removed), REI long sleeve wicking shirt, a Shoei Hornet DS helmet (with fitted speakers), Joe Rocket Gloves and a pair of Oxtar boots (the ones that are just like the BMW boot). I carried a three-liter Camelbak Mule for liquid refreshment, and a recently purchased Spot Messenger for emergencies.

Then the bike: 2004 KTM 950 with 17k miles at the start of the trip, fresh tires, fresh oil, valves just shimmed and a new chain and sprockets. Farkles include SW Motech crash bars (old style), Corbin seat, Trailtech HID lights, Superplush forks, heated grips, Zumo (with Baja map from Bicimapas for the trip) and the H2W jet kit with pre-filter. Insurance for the trip was purchased from Mexinsure.


I set off from San Francisco on the morning of September 8th, heading down the 101 as it promised to be a more interesting ride than 5. It was certainly cooler as I ran along near the coast with heavy fog in patches. I eventually found myself pulling over to layer up. Two or three gas stops later I found myself in Laguna Niguel. With the temperature increasing, and traffic getting heavier I decided it was time to pull in for the day. I used the Zumo to find and call a hotel. It's a great piece of technology, at least while it works!


Day 1: Route from San Francisco to Laguna Niguel; 473 miles.



Setting off at 10 the next morning to avoid the worst of the morning commute traffic, I headed straight to Tecate. I picked this remote border crossing due to Tijuana's bad rep. Last time I was in TJ on business I was provided with an escort so I definitely didn't want to chance it solo. I stopped only at the Wells Fargo in San Diego to buy some pesos.


Day 2 (USA): Laguna Niguel to the border at Tecate.


Day 2 (Mexico): Tecate to Endenada.


Vista point on I-5 just North of San Diego


I noticed an interesting bridge out to an artificial island and stopped to investigate. Turned out to be a porta-potty dumping station.

From Laguna Niguel, this was a straight shot south towards San Diego on the I-5 (taking the carpool lane most of the way), then the I-805, finally heading off eastwards on route 94 and 188 to Tecate. This is a very remote and inhospitable area, not very populous and forms an obvious physical border between the US and Mexico. It certainly has a rugged beauty though, and temperatures were climbing rapidly as I took some shots approaching the border. On this stretch of road, the 188, >50% of traffic were border patrol vehicles and there is a northbound checkpoint several miles in on the US side.


Border area approaching Tecate on the 188


The Mexican border approaches.

Crossing the border into Mexico was simplicity itself- just drive through. I knew I needed to stop to get a tourist identity card as I was planning to leave the border regions (in Baja, this means anywhere south of Ensenada), so I went into the Inmigracion Mexicio (I.M.) office to pay for the permit. The friendly officer there supplied the card for $20 US, expressed surprise that I was going solo and wished me luck. Unfortunately I managed to fall down the steps of the office while leaving which wasn't an auspicious start.

I switched the Zumo over to the Mexico Maps at this point, although from Tecate there really isn't much choice about where to go...it's either West to Tijuana, East to Mexicali or South to Ensenada. I headed South- a pleasant albeit extremely hot ride to Ensenada. Once there, I rode around a little, took some photos and then decided to stay there for the night, even though I hadn't run much mileage for the day. I stayed at the Corona Hotel and Spa, a little away from the main downtown area but relatively cheap with sauna and swimming pool access included, and wi-fi for $5 extra. Also neat was the fact that they gave me a room that opened straight onto bike parking, which made it really easy to haul the heavy cases in. Also, the tourist information office is right across the road from the Corona.


Outside Starbucks in Ensenada


Giant Mexican flag in Ensenada.

That night I took a walk around Ensenada, but found not too much happening, as this time of year seems to be the off season. The next morning I did see a cruise ship pull in but I was already on my way out of town. Heading South from Ensenada the road is initally a dual carriageway, giving way to two lane after 10 miles or so. The countryside started to look like the third world country I had been expecting. Shack style dwellings everywhere, dead dogs on the roadside, live dogs chasing me, every house had some kind of sign advertising Tecate, food or mechanic services. I passed through Punta Colonet, Camalu, Vicente Guerrero and San Quentin. Nothing looked especially appealing, so I fought the urge to stop and eat until I was safely bedded down for the night.


Day 3: Ensenada to Guerrero Negro.


A quick stop at the Mission San Vicente just South of Ensenada. A nice 2/3 mile detour down a dirt road.


Lonely highway, 280kms South of Ensenada.

One thing to note at this point was that I had brought very little cash as I was told that all the Pemex stations and hotels in Baja would take credit cards. I was rapidly finding out that this is not true, and therefore my supply of cash was starting to dwindle perilously, so I was looking for an ATM at the earliest convenience. At this point I started to notice the deficiencies in the Bicimapas database.

Hit El Rosario at midday and gassed up, with a new problem on the horizon. According to the Pemex attendant, the next gas was close to Guerrero Negro, well beyond the range of the KTM. However there might be gas in Catavina. This didn't exactly shore up my confidence, but what the hell. I've got the Spot messenger anyway right? Plus I was sure I could persuade a local to sell me some gas if stuck.....so I pressed on. The landscape changed from brushy desert to large cactus forests with massive boulder piles, signs of volcanic activity I guess. In Catavina I found gas, Pemex Magna for 35 pesos per gallon. This is still cheaper than CA! I looked at the desert inn at Catavina, decided it was over-priced and pushed on. The road signed were teaching me Spanish as I rode...Curva Peligrosa...Diminuya sus Velocidada...Vado...Maquinias Trabajando. Cows all over the road, alive and dead...wild goats....wild horses. I met few vehicles that were on the road for more than a few miles, as most cars pulled on and off within a short distance (with no indicators as a rule) with the exception of long distance trucks. I also figured out that emissions controls have not made their way down here, so keeping back a good distance is not only a good idea for safety but also to avoid watering eyes from the unburnt gas fumes.


Cactus grove close to Catavina.

Anyway, with gas aplenty once more, I rode full bore from Catavina, stopping only for an occasional photograph. Made it to Villa Jesus Maria just as the sun was going down, gassed up at the Pemex there and headed for Guerrero Negro where I planned to spend the night. Into Geurrero Negro and time for one photograph of a magnificent purple sky, which is probably the only good way to photograph GN- there's not a lot going on here except for special forces training (all night helicopter and jet noises). However I found a room for 200 pesos for the night at the somewhat grim Motel Dunas- about $19 US, and had some good eats at the Asadero de Viva Mexico (fours tacos- 48 pesos). No help here from Bicimapas, as it listed no hotels for this town. Next morning I found the Internet Cafe, about 6 blocks from the hotel so I could check in and pay some bills online.


Guerrero Negro at sunset.


Motel Dunas in Guerrero Negro.

After this night, and the stress of not knowing whether I would find gas I had some second thoughts about heading further South, especially as the scenery had not been inspiring. However I pressed on the next morning, crossing the 28th parallel and into a different time zone, and after only one or two hours further travel South I was glad I did. The desert landscape started to become more verdant as I headed through San Ygnacio and Mulege, and further South towards Santa Roslia. The good feelings were only slightly dampened by the huge muddy flood I crashed though on the South side of Village X (cannot remember name), after which I alternately laughed and cursed as I slowly dried off.


Day 4- Guerrero Negro to Sea of Cortes coast.


Filthy from crashing through giant mud hole.


Volcan Las Tres Virgines in the background.


Volcan Las Tres Virgines. None of them found on this trip.


Another view of Las Tres Virgines.


Bizarre roadside display just South of Mulege.

I climbed through some fantastic sweeping mountain roads with amazing views; beautiful towns such as Mulege and San Ygnacio; often there just isn't a place to stop to take the photographs that are needed to show the beauty of the place. Then, cresting a mountain pass and dropping down to the Sea of Cortes presented even more beautiful scenery.


Dropping down to the Sea of Cortes, just North of Santa Rosalia

Gluaisrothaí screwed with this post 09-20-2008 at 04:53 PM
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Old 09-20-2008, 01:06 PM   #2
Gluaisrothaí OP
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Continued.....

I passed through Santa Rosalia, a decent looking town and continued along the coast road.


Santa Rosalia.


Glamor shot for the KTM.


Sea of Cortes, South of Santa Rosalia.


More sea of Cortes.


Even more sea of Cortes.


Enough Sea of Cortes already!!!

Gluaisrothaí screwed with this post 09-21-2008 at 12:19 PM
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Old 09-20-2008, 01:12 PM   #3
Gluaisrothaí OP
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continued.....

I stopped to take one too many photographs and started to overheat, so I stopped at the first promising location I found- Hotel Buenaventura, about two hours North of Loreto. Note: South of Guerrero Negro, bring insect repellent- the hotel proprietor was kind enough to lend me some of hers.


KTM happily parked up after a hard day's ride!


Me sweating my Irish brain out.


This hotel was pretty decent, with a fantastic view. I was invited to pull the bike right up to the room door, as turns out to the case for most places I stayed. The owner had told me that the power might go off during the night, but thankfully it didn't and the weak a/c managed to keep the room down to 80 degrees. 100 yards away, a beach restaurant and bar turned out to be a Baja 1000 themed establishment, so I ended up talking bikes (and later politics) to the barman until the place closed- at 9pm to conserve generator fuel.

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Old 09-20-2008, 01:35 PM   #4
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And onwards to Cabo..

Early next morning I set off. I had learned my lesson about getting miles under my belt before things got too hot, so I was on the road at seven. No breakfast as I wasn't feeling to well after my hamburguesa con queso the night before.


Day 5- All the way to Cabo.


Heading for La Paz


Sometimes the road just disappears. Actually this was off the main road a ways....:)


Try hitting stretches of sand/dirt like this at 130 km/h on a fully loaded 950. Great test of reflexes....

No major notes about this section except that again gas was a little stretch- 209kms from Ciudad Constucion to La Paz (where I achieved my best fuel economy for the trip- 16.47 km/litre)- just miles, more miles, gas stops, chitos, doritos, finally stopping in Todos Santos (I bypassed La Paz as it looked like a dump). Also, lots of construction work on the roads and some areas that were dug up but were not marked in advance. Keeps you on your toes!




Ever present on the roadsides of Baja, a reminder of mortality and the dangers of the highways....


A little company along the way- cattle, horses and goats all along the road.

Todos Santos is one of the nicer looking towns I've seen in Baja, and I'll definitely pay it a visit again. Not too touristy, and not a dump. I ate there at Los Fuentes- I heartily recommend the Enchiladas Pollo con Mole for 69 pesos. I also admire their tolerance for a filthy sweating biker. Having done 350 miles in extreme heat, I was not a pretty sight. I wolfed down what they gave me and headed out for Cabo...this turned out to be the MOST dangerous part of the trip so far.


Todos Santos.
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Old 09-20-2008, 01:45 PM   #5
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Cab Wabo.....

The road from Todos Santos to Cabo San Lucas is absuolutely insane- death defying overtaking maneuvers, speeding, general ignorance of all rules of the road. Whereas driving in Baja is generally characterized a haphazard adherence to the laws but at a moderate speed, here it's just plain crazy.


The bay in Cabo


More Cabo.




Pulling into Cabo, again the Bicimapas software did not have any hotels listed. By chance I pulled into the carwash by the Walmart (to clean off some caked mud) where the propietor turned out to be a huge KTM fan (races a 525 in the desert) and pointed me to a decent hotel, which, thankfully had a laundry and was extremely cheap by Cabo standards ($75 per night, double room, internet, TV, free breakfast). I stayed three nights.


Notes on the bike and gear so far: Rear tire was brand new, now 30% worn. Front tire has started to wear unevenly (more wear on the sides than in the center- weird). Chain doesn't need adjusting, but looks like it needs to be lubed. Oil has gone from full mark on dipstick to 3/4 full. Coolant level has not moved. Joe Rocket gloves have faded from black to brown. Olympia jacket is extremely warm, only bearable because of wicking shirt (I put the shirt on wet in the morning). Dainese pants are way too warm. Shoei helmet is starting to feel very tight and leaves diamond imprints on my forehead that don't go away for two hours after riding. Earplugs are making my ears hurt like hell and very raw.
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Old 09-20-2008, 04:02 PM   #6
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Great Report

Keep the dialogue and pics coming, never too many good Baja reports. I have to ask what many are thinking---any signs of bandidios or harasssment yet?
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Old 09-20-2008, 04:41 PM   #7
Gluaisrothaí OP
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Thanks for the comment...

No hassles for the entire trip, from cops, banditos or otherwise. The only thing that's a little uncomfortable is the endless stream of military checkpoints, about 10 kilometres outside of each town courtesy of Presdent Calderone's crackdown on the drug cartels. The military folks are courteous, but it's a strange feeling to drive into a bunch of essentially kids holding M16s.

The locals have been friendly, including the Pemex folks and random people I talked to at food stops etc. Everyone wants to ask about the "nuevo cinquante" and how much it cost...I always say much less than it actually did cost.
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Old 09-20-2008, 06:54 PM   #8
OaklandLion
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Nice RR -

also from the Bay Area.

Thanks for sharing.
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Old 09-20-2008, 10:55 PM   #9
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nice ride! more to come?

thanks for posting!!
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Old 09-20-2008, 11:15 PM   #10
Mike955i
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Nice RR, thanks for sharing it. I'm doing this very ride in a month, very interested in your experiences. How well versed are you in Spanish? Would you do anything different?

I'm planning to haul ass down to Cabo over 2 days, spend a week with the family, and then meander north for 4 days to do some more exploring. Any suggestions are welcome. Cheers.....Mike
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Old 09-20-2008, 11:34 PM   #11
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klevins,

Thanks so much for the detailed ride report and awesome photos. I have taken to reading two or three ride threads a night as entertainment instead of TV. Yours was the highlight of Sunday night. Cheers Mate.

Also that KTM is just beautiful!
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Old 09-21-2008, 07:24 AM   #12
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What a great ride, report and pics!! Thanks for posting
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Old 09-21-2008, 08:20 AM   #13
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Thumb Nice RR an pics!

Looks like a great trip.
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Old 09-21-2008, 10:07 AM   #14
Gluaisrothaí OP
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Thanks for the comments!

This is my first long ride and report so I appreciate the feedback!

Cabo is definitely a tourist focussed city. A lot of construction going on at the moment and an awkward one-way system, plus lots of rough and unpaved streets that the KTMs long travel suspenders make easy work of.

I guess one thing I have not mentioned so far are "topes" which are giant speed bumps randomly scattered through the smaller towns and villages. Cars and trucks need to slow down to below 5 mph to cross them without damage, but even fully loaded the KTM can cross them at over 60 kph standing on the pegs, which makes for great overtaking opportunities. However, they can present a challenge when you hit one by surprise, so keep an eye out for the signs!



A few more cabo photos:



In the distance, you can just make out a Hooters. Anyone feel like wings?


Another great ADV tradition- checking out the local birds.




Construction in Cabo...
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Old 09-21-2008, 10:09 AM   #15
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Cabo-rama


Standing on the beach at the western edge of Cabo.
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